Charges in medical marijuana case stand

October 16, 2006

Sara Reed, Coloradoan (Ft. Collins)

A Fort Collins couple still faces charges of possession and cultivation of marijuana after a judge refused Monday to dismiss the charges under Colorado's medical marijuana law.

It was the first court test of a provision in Amendment 20, the medical marijuana law passed by voters in November 2000.

District Court Judge Jolene Blair told Lisa and James Masters she couldn't dismiss the charges because there is no state documentation showing they are caregivers for people authorized to use marijuana for medical purposes.

The Masterses' attorney, Rob Corry, told Blair they did not have the documentation but were attempting to show their exemption through testimony from patients and others.

The amendment allows patients to grow, possess and use marijuana for medicinal purposes - including HIV/AIDS and cancer patients - if recommended by a physician. It also allows designated caregivers for those patients to grow and possess marijuana.

Lisa and James Masters both have medical conditions that resulted in a doctor's recommendation for medical marijuana, Corry said after the hearing.

But they don't have the necessary state documentation to grow marijuana, the focus of their court case.

They decided to focus their case more on the caregiver exemption to protect their privacy.

Corry declined to disclose what medical condition either had that led to the recommendation of medical marijuana.

The couple were arrested Aug. 2 when police were called to check the welfare of the couple's two children, ages 4 and 6, according to an affidavit from Fort Collins police. The officer smelled marijuana in the house and the couple told the officers they had a doctor's recommendation for medical marijuana and they were growing it for that purpose.

The children had been in foster care but have since been reunited with their parents, according to discussions held in court Monday.

Continued negotiations with prosecutors are likely before the couple returns to court at 8:30 a.m. Dec. 12.

The amendment created a registry, overseen by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, that provides a permit of sorts for patients who have a doctor's recommendation for medical marijuana.

Registration isn't required if the patient is growing or possesses his or her own marijuana.

However, for someone to be named a caregiver, the patient must get on the registry and list that person as their designated caregiver, according to Ron Hyman, the Colorado registrar of vital statistics.

Only then, Hyman said, can that person be recognized as a caregiver and qualify for the exemption.

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